I recently had a panic attack in Target. Atlantic Terminal was it’s usual mosh pit of mayhem, screaming women with hideous eyelashes pushing strollers and bumping into yuppies perusing the lackluster Prabal Gurung items now at 70% off. Target isn’t my fave place to be (unless it’s a Sunday morning, everything is restocked, and I have the time to sashay down the “ethnic” hair care aisle), but it doesn’t get me flustered. I am there 2 times a week, more like 4 since I have moved into my new apartment.
Yet there I was. Rising body temp, echoing sounds, and slippery fingers. I was having a meltdown albeit a silent one. Those are the only respectable ones to have.
I knew why it was happening. A mere 45 minutes before, my beautiful blonde Polish OB-GYN had the following exchange.
Polish OB-GYN: Yeah, I don’t know why you keep having these adverse reactions to birth control. First the IUD. Now the Nuvaring. I haven’t seen anything like it.
Me: I’m special.
Polish OB-GYN: Indeed you are. [flips through chart] Did you realize in August you weighed 163 and now you weigh 177? And your blood pressure has elevated considerably.
Polish OB-GYN: If it gets much higher, you may not be eligible to take birth control.
Me: [HAS SMALL ANEURYSM]
I had the same conversation with my primary care physician a month ago when he talked to me about my cholesterol.
And I have had the pleasure of receiving off-handed comments from family members at a recent wedding when I collapsed in my hotel room more than once in an adjacent hotel room.
Kelly, you were never a fat child or even a fat teenager. Kelly, you were doing so well, what happened? You wouldn’t be this overweight if you didn’t live in New York.
Apparently I will not eligible for a loving relationship, a raise, a healthy pregnancy, happy vacations, a functioning heart or respiratory system, or family support unless I lose about 40 pounds.
There is some truth to that. Dating is different for overweight people. The men that were attracted to me 8 years ago were richer and whiter without a doubt. Apparently women who routinely exercise get promoted more. And I know all about diabetes and heart disease thanks to my day job.
So, how do I manage to like myself today? To wear a sundress and flirt and not scrutinize everything I eat and exercise for the joy of it, and find value in myself regardless of what society says? Well, that’s easy. Society isn’t the problem at all. I am a black woman from Mississippi who went to an Ivy League school; every day I spit in society’s face and go on about my business.
It’s hard, however, to spit in the faces of colleagues, family members, and friends. People who love me, they really do, but scrunch up their face when I order french fries. Or point out how we used to share clothes, or outright ask me why I let myself go.
I didn’t let myself go. My life happened. After 24ish, my metabolism slowed. I participated in the cocktail culture of the city. I ate out on dates 3 times a week. I sit for 3 hours a day on the train and 9 hours at work. I mostly lived in places with small I get home at 9pm, write down my thoughts and lay down. And I use food as punisher, soother, and reward.
In other words, I am an ordinary American. In my family or school cohort, ordinary isn’t acceptable. It’s isn’t acceptable to me either on most accounts, which is why this issue gives me such anguish and stress.
I truly have no desire to be thin. I do have a desire to be thinner, have more energy, and have more insulin sensitivity. Spring is a time of renewal; I am starting small. A jog with the dog. Walking up the stairs, heading to the farmers market every week. I don’t expect that I will see a definite change on the outside.
But it’s the inside I am more concerned about.
*PS. Feel free to share any success stories or tips via Twitter or in the comments!